New UK banking unicorn mulls Dublin for its EU headquarters

Bank of London was valued at $1.1 billion ahead of its launch this week

Bank of London claims it will ‘power the borderless economic infrastructure of the future’. Photograph: Michael Sohn/AP

Bank of London claims it will ‘power the borderless economic infrastructure of the future’. Photograph: Michael Sohn/AP

 

A new UK-based banking group that launched on Tuesday after being valued at $1.1 billion (€972 million) is considering setting up its European headquarters in Ireland, once it obtains a licence to operate in the euro zone.

Sources close to the Bank of London, the new institution which will focus on speedy cross-border payments, say it has a shortlist of two locations for its European base: Dublin and Luxembourg. The bank says it is in “advanced negotiations” with regulators in Europe, as well as the United States.

Bank of London, founded by former senior Barclay’s executive Anthony Watson, launched in the UK this week as only the second new clearing bank in 250 years. It is aiming to take on the four big banks that dominate the payments space, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest and Mr Watson’s old employer Barclays.

The start-up institution says it will hire 3,000 staff across the UK, European Union and north America over the next five years. It has raised $120 million, including $90 million in its latest round, which gave it so-called ‘unicorn’ status. Investors include New York-based investment group ForgeLight, 14W Venture Partners and Mangrove Capital.

Bank of London claims it will “power the borderless economic infrastructure of the future”.

“The world of global transaction and clearing banking needs disrupting,” said Mr Watson. “Fewer than 100 banks control the flow of money in, around, between and out of the UK, the EU and the US.”

He said 75 per cent of the world’s “spendable money”, which he put at $2.5 quadrillion (thousand trillion), is under the control of a “small club” of banks and he suggested this concentration poses an “acute” risk to the financial system. He also said new digital challenger banks. He also criticised more recently launched digital challenger banks as being too close to the legacy banks.

“They offer nothing more than incremental improvements in speed, cost and ease of use. These ‘digital’ bolt-ons to analogue legacy systems are the fax machines of finance. They are not paradigm busters,” he said.

Bank of London says it will use technology to speed up payments, reduce fraud and enable other companies to offer banking services using its services.